History of Kirkwood, New York


The township of Kirkwood lies just east of the city of Binghamton. Originally it was made up of several parcels of land belonging to the Clinton and Meicher tract, the Watts patent, the Bingham patent, the Lawrence patent, the Floyd tract, and the Thomas patent. A few smaller parts of other tracts were also included in the territory now known as the township of Kirkwood. Up to 1859 this township was a part of the township of Conklin, the greater part of the township of Conklin and much of the southern portion of Kirkwood having been included in the Thomas tract. It is probable that the Thomas grant was secured before the beginning of the American Revolution, and that about 8,000 acres were covered by the patent.

According to the best information now available, Jonathan Fitch was the first man to locate in what is now Kirkwood, he having come from the Wyoming Valley, in the State of Pennsylvania, in the year 1789, and settled at the mouth of a. creek to which he gave his own name. In 1790 Judge Fitch built a grist mill near his home, doing an extensive custom business. Two years later he was elected to serve in the legislative session for the county of Tioga, from which we conclude that he must have been a man of much ability and interested in the political development of the country.

About the same time that Judge Fitch located at the mouth of Fitch’s creek, Garrett Snedeker, coming from Tom’s River, New Jersey, started a clearing on the Susquehanna river about a mile up the stream from the present village of Kirkwood. A number of sons and daughters survived Garrett Snedeker, all very estimable people who made their mark on the life of the community. Others who came in very early days were John Peter Wentz, who settled where Kirkwood now is, and established a long line of descendants, a number of whom were more or less intimately connected with the subsequent history of Binghamton and Broome county: Daniel Chapman, Asa Rood, Asa Squires, John Bell, Silas Bowker, Joel Lamoreaux, David Compton, Noel Carr, Abraham Miller, Chester Wells, Ebenezer Park; and Joseph Bartlett, who bought a farm afterward known as the Bartlett farm, a short distance up the river from the State Hospital grounds. In 1802 William Jones located a few miles below the site of Kirkwood village, where he reared a large family, many of whom have been prominent in the history of the county. As we shall see later, some descendants of these families have survived the changes of time and still reside in Kirkwood. Another man whose descendants are today well known in Binghamton came at an early day to Kirkwood; reference is made to Isaac Curran. Nor can we pass over lightly the names of Henry Bayless, Abraham Berkalew, John Conklin; Gambia Rider, whose home was near the Windsor line, and who was the father of Charles A. Rider, a storekeeper of Windsor, and grandfather of John A. Rider, now living in Binghamton, after a long period of service as county treasurer of Broome county. Still others were Daniel Evans, who was one of the men who organized the Broome County Bank, Jacob Brownell, David Langdon, and Joseph Guernsey.

Kirkwood as a distinct township was brought into existence through a resolution of the board of supervisors of Broome county, dated November 23d, 1859. The act provided Chat all the land which had formerly belonged to the township of Conklin lying north and east of the Susquehanna river should be set off for a new township, to be known as Kirkwood, the name coming, we are told, from that of a man who was connected with the engineering staff of the New York & Erie railroad at the time of its construction through this section. The State Legislature approved of the action of the board of supervisors, and the first town meeting was held in the home of George Jones on the 14th of February, 1860. As at that time constituted, Kirkwood embraced a territory of 18,789 acres, which has been diminished somewhat through the extension of the city of Binghamton in an eastward direction. It is of interest to note the names of the first officers elected in and for the township of Kirkwood. They were: Supervisor, Joseph Bartlett; town clerk, Daniel Casper; justices of the peace—Isaac Bound, William Park, Benjamin Duel; assessors—Sylvester Barnes, Ira Shear, Rufus Whitney; commissioners of highways—Barney W. Sherwood, David M. Langdon; overseers of the poor—Park Chamberlain, William H. Middaugh; collector, George Craver; constables—Enoch Brown, Henry VanBuren, George Craver, Robert Bartlett, William W. Jones; sealer of weights and measures, Baltis Swartz.

The school system of Kirkwood is the same as that which it had when a part of the old township of Chenango, having been handed down first to Conklin and then to Kirkwood, the only change being that of renumbering. Mutations of population may be given in the following terms: 1860, 1,389; 1870, 1,402; 1880, 1,344; 1890, 1,119; 1900, 918; 1910, 852; 1920, 899.

Kirkwood has one village worthy of note, that being of the same name as the township itself. The Susquehanna river comes up very near to the village, and the N. Y. L. & W. railroad affords an outlet for passenger and freight traffic, while just across the river the D. L. & W. railroad still farther furnishes connection with all parts of the world. The villages owes its first store to Marshall Squires, who opened a trading place for the accommodation of those employed in building the Erie road, as well as that of people who lived in the nearby community. Mr. Squires owned most of the land about Kirkwood at that time, and was the first postmaster the village had. A good many changes have taken place since then.

Other hamlets in the township of Kirkwood are Riverside, in the southern part, where a store and a Methodist Episcopal church are maintained; Langdon, a few miles west of Kirkwood, with a Christian church and a shipping station for milk; and Brookvale, in the northeastern part of the town, where are to be found a few dwellings and a Universalist church.

The chief business of the people of Kirkwood is, like that of most of the townships of Broome county, farming, the dairy industry being very prominent. A number of good truck farms are also carried on here and the people are as a rule in comfortable circumstances.

There are today no mills or factories in the township of Kirkwood, except a grist mill at Kirkwood village. A general store meets the needs of the surrounding neighborhood, while one church, supported by the Methodist Episcopal denomination, represents the religious interest of the community. At Langdon there is a Christian church, at Riverside a Methodist Episcopal church, and at Brookdale another of the same faith; while below Langdon a Catholic church ministers to the spiritual life of that denomination who reside in the immediate vicinity. At Kirkwood is located the schoolhouse of District No. 2.

At Kirkwood still lives Nelson B. Andrews, whose grandfather, Samuel Andrews, came from Chenango county in 1815. At Langdon we find Frank Langdon, living on a part of the farm where his father, David M. Langdon, lived. Between Great Bend and Binghamton a number of descendants of early settlers still reside, among them being Mrs. Crawford, a daughter of Samuel Bayless. Mrs. Crawford’s husband, Charles Crawford, is at present supervisor of Kirkwood township. Frank Langdon has also served a number of years in the same capacity.

Although the buildings of the New York State Hospital are now
within the limits of the city of Binghamton, the farm itself which is connected with that institution lies in the township of Kirkwood.

The present assessment roll of the township of Kirkwoocl shows that its real property is assessed at $1,107,100, and its franchises at $11,640. The roster of the town officers now serving follows: Supervisor, Charles Crawford; town clerk, A. G. Brink; assessors—Michael Foley, William Christa, Manford Weed; superintendent of highways, Karl Keesler; justices of the peace, George Musk, William Faulkner, Jr., Fred Dewing, David Badger; collector, J. H. Odell; superintendents of the poor, John Provost, James Sullivan; constables, Morris J. Pope, William Carroll, John Geiger, Simon Andrus.

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